Sunday, December 30, 2012

Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure Change Effective January 1

Rule 5(a), Rule 54(c) and Rule 55(b)(2) have new language as the result of a ruling in a case that prompted the Supreme Judicial Court make changes in the Rules.

 Rule 5(a) “Service: When Required”, Rule 54(c) “Demand for Judgment” and Rule 55(b)(2) “Judgment. By the Court.” were changed as a result of the S.J.C.’s ruling in Hermanson v. Szafarowicz, 457 Mass. 39 (2010). Reporter’s Notes to Rule 55(b)(2)  explain the change, which is effective January 1, 2013.

The Hermanson case dealt with G.L. c. 231, § 13B, which prohibits a demand for a specific monetary amount in a complaint, and the first sentence of Mass. R. Civ. P. 54(c), which provides that a default judgment may not exceed the amount requested in the demand for judgment. The S.J.C. requested the Standing Advisory Committee on the Rules of Civil and Appellate Procedure to review the conflict between the statute and the rule, and suggest a resolution. The Court adopted the Standing Advisory Committee’s recommendation to require the party seeking a default judgment to provide advance notice to the defendant of the nature and type of damages sought, but to not name a sum certain.